Speed kills, at least for Louisiana-Lafayette’s men’s basketball team.
The Ragin’ Cajuns used a big quickness advantage against taller Iowa to beat the Hawkeyes 80-71 of John Gray Gymnasium on Monday, the first day of the inaugural Cayman Islands Classic in George Town, Cayman Islands.
Iowa battled back from as much as a 24-point deficit in the closing minutes but didn't the margin under double digits until the final 19 seconds in the tournament opener in George Town, Cayman Islands.
“This wasn’t a surprise to us,” said Michael Murphy, the Cajuns director of basketball operations. “From start to finish, we controlled the game. We controlled the pace offensively and defensively; our speed affected them, and our depth affected them.”
UL-Lafayette (3-1) had a 48-26 advantage in the paint, had 25 assists on 30 field goals, had nine steals and held the Hawkeyes (3-1) to less than 30 percent shooting through the game’s first 28 minutes.
Four players also scored in double figures, and even a cold 5-of-21 showing from three-point range didn’t slow down a Cajun squad that repeatedly beat the Hawkeyes to the basket in transition.
“We had a great stretch where we did a good job and we were able to score after getting stops and runouts,” said Cajuns coach Bob Marlin. “We were able to attack their pressure and get some easy buckets.”
The Cajuns (3-1) will face Wyoming, a 77-65 winner over South Dakota State on Monday, at 1:30 p.m. in Tuesday's semifinals. The finals of the eight-team tournament are Wednesday.
ULL, which entered the tournament averaging more than 101 points per game, used a 21-1 run over a nine-minute stretch in the first half to build a 31-11 lead when Bryce Washington took one of Marcus Stroman’s 11 assists and put home a short jumper 2:22 before halftime. UL-Lafayette led the previously unbeaten Hawkeyes 37-17 at halftime.
Defense keyed much of that run. From the 11:21 point of the first half, when the score was tied 10-10, Iowa went more than nine minutes without a field goal. By the time Jordan Bohannon finally hit a 3-pointer with 2:15 remaining, the Cajuns held that 20-point lead. Iowa was only 7 of 27 from the floor and 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the first half.
“It was a great defensive effort,” Marlin said. “When you have a double-digit lead like that at the half, you know that the other team is going to come hard at you. They were pressing us and they got some calls, and we just had to be strong mentally and fight through it.”
The Cajuns stretched the margin to 44-20 in the first two minutes of the second half on a free throw by Washington, who had his second straight double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds and hit all six of his shots.
It was still a 17-point margin with 7:06 left when Frank Bartley’s fast-break layup gave UL-Lafayette a 62-45 advantage. Bartley also had back-to-back driving layups in a 40-second stretch that kept the Cajuns in front 68-55 with 4:08 left.
The Cajuns made 8 of 12 free throws down the stretch. JaKeenan Gant had six points in 57 seconds in the final stages, including a fast-break layup with 1:28 left and a dunk with 33 seconds remaining to offset Iowa’s six straight points at the end.
“I thought we did a really good job of answering,” Marlin said. “We never let them get back into it.”
Bartley had 17 points, Gant 16 and Justin Miller 14 along with seven rebounds off the bench. Stroman with 0 for 8 from the field but had his second straight 11-assist game.
Isaiah Moss had 24 points, 22 of them in the second half, and Bohannon had 21 including four 3-pointers to pace Iowa, which had won its first three games by an average of 26 points.